Policy shift aligns Japan with international standard.
Just as a judo match involves two competitors, there are two governing bodies for the sport. The International Judo Federation, based in Switzerland, is the controlling body for competitions in the global judo community, while Japan’s All Japan Judo Federation holds dominion over all things judo in the martial art’s native nation.
The two organizations each lay out their own sets of rules on how contests are to be carried out and decided, with even uniform regulations for judoka (judo practitioners) differing between the two. In 1999, for example, the International Judo Federation put an end to the practice of female judoka having to wear black belts with a white stripe running lengthwise along the fabric, as opposed to the pure-black belts used by male competitors, on the grounds that the discrepancy was discriminatory.
However, the All Japan Judo Federation decided to stick with the established norm and continued with the use of the white-striped black belt, which can be seen in the above photo.
On March 13, though, the All Japan Judo Federation’s board of directors announced that it would be abolishing the use of the white-striped belts, and that once the change goes into effect, male and female judoka alike will be using the entirely black belts.
No official reason has been given for the organization’s change in stance. A likely explanation, though, is the continued success of the Japanese women’s Olympic judo team, whose medal count since the 1992 Games (when women’s judo became a medal event) currently sits at 32, two better than the 30 medals claimed by Japanese male judoka in that time frame. Women’s athletics and athletes have also been receiving increasingly prominent media coverage in Japan since the turn of the millennium, and in light of such developments, it seems the All Japan Judo Federation took a moment to reexamine why it had two sets of uniform regulations, and decided that the discrepancy was a relic of a bygone era.